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A brilliant and bitingly funny collection of stories united around a single crumbling apartment building in Ukraine.
"Bright, funny, satirical and relevant. . . . A new talent to watch"--Margaret Atwood
"You've never read anything like them"--Elizabeth McCracken
"Darkly hilarious"--Anthony Doerr
"Bang-on brilliant"--Miriam Toews
"Fearless and thrilling"--Bret Anthony Johnston
A bureaucratic glitch omits an entire building, along with its residents, from municipal records. So begins Reva's ingeniously intertwined narratives, nine stories that span the chaotic years leading up to and immediately following the fall of the Soviet Union. But even as the benighted denizens of 1933 Ivansk Street weather the official neglect of the increasingly powerless authorities, they devise ingenious ways to survive.
In "Bone Music," an agoraphobic recluse survives by selling contraband LPs, mapping the vinyl grooves of illegal Western records into stolen X-ray film. A delusional secret service agent in "Letter of Apology" becomes convinced he's being covertly recruited to guard Lenin's tomb, just as his parents, not seen since he was a small child, supposedly were. Weaving the narratives together is the unforgettable, chameleon-like Zaya: a cleft-lipped orphan in "Little Rabbit," a beauty-pageant crasher in "Miss USSR," a sadist-for-hire to the Eastern Bloc's newly minted oligarchs in "Homecoming."
Good Citizens Need Not Fear tacks from moments of intense paranoia to surprising tenderness and back again, exploring what it is to be an individual amid the roiling forces of history. Inspired by her and her family's own experiences in Ukraine, Reva brings the black absurdism of early Shteyngart and the sly interconnectedness of Anthony Marra's Tsar of Love and Techno to a collection that is as clever as it is heartfelt.
About the Author
MARIA REVA was born in Ukraine and grew up in Canada. She holds an MFA from the Michener Center at the University of Texas. Her fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, McSweeney's, Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere, and has won a National Magazine Award. She also works as an opera librettist.
“Innovative, bitingly funny.”
"Bright, funny, satirical, and relevant...A new talent to watch!"
—Margaret Atwood, author of The Testaments
"Creative, poignant, and darkly hilarious, Good Citizens Need Not Fear is full of relevant questions about resistance, corruption, and maintaining dignity against the dehumanizing power of the State. This is an outstanding first book."
—Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See
"Good Citizens Need Not Fear is the funniest, most politically astute book I've read in years. Reva's pitch perfect tone--especially at that comic junction where the absurdity of a system rigged to control human beings collides with actual humans--is bang-on brilliant."
—Miriam Toews, author of Women Talking
"Luminous. These stories speak with humour yet real emotion of the heaviness of totalitarian systems and show how the light of our humanity still shines through. Terrific stuff."
—Yann Martel, author of Man Booker Prize-winning Life of Pi
"Dazzling...With their big, delightful dollops of surrealism and absurdity, these stories conjure up from the old Soviet-era Ukraine a world that feels, with its hall-of-mirrors twists and torques, uncannily—alarmingly!—on point and up-to-date. Good Citizens Need Not Fear marks the beginning of what is sure to be a long, strong career for the brilliant Maria Reva."
—Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
"Everything about this book is astonishing—its breadth and depth, its wit and originality, its inventiveness and intelligence and, maybe most surprising of all, its great big heart. We’ve been waiting for a writer as fearless and thrilling as Maria Reva, and Good Citizens Need Not Fear confirms that she’s arriving exactly when we need her most."
—Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Remember Me Like This
“Maria Reva is a miracle writer: how else to explain how dark and suffused with light these stories are, how genuinely hilarious and very serious, how entertaining and thought provoking? You've never read anything like them, and together they make an incredible, strange, & deeply exciting book.”
—Elizabeth McCracken, author of Bowlaway
“I have never read anything like these radiant stories. They are true originals— funny, devastating, and containing a weird, wild energy. These citizens, living in the literally collapsing buildings of Ukraine, will not be crushed or silenced. They have something urgent to say about where we are today.”
—Deb Olin Unferth, author of Wait Till You See Me Dance
“[A] hilarious, absurdist debut collection…Reva delights in the strange situations caused by political dysfunction, while offering surprising notes of tenderness as ordinary people learn to get by. The riotous set pieces and intelligent gaze make this an auspicious debut.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[A] witty first collection...Reva’s tales effortlessly converge, offering well-honed portraits of her characters’ realities, sensibilities, and urgencies.”